Childhood is a time of rapid growth and development, and a time when many habits and behaviours are set. A healthy lifestyle, including healthy eating, in childhood will help to ensure a healthy future. The guidelines provided here are aimed at 2-12-year-olds. For more detailed info, we recommend you visit HealthEd’s Eating for Healthy Children aged 2-12.
This includes food from all the four food groups:
For the recommended number of serves and serving size examples, do visit HealthEd’s Eating for Healthy Children aged 2-12.
The best drinks for children are water and milk. Small bodies heat up more quickly so drinking plenty of plain water will keep them cool, and also help them concentrate at school. Some children are reluctant water drinkers – a few ice cubes or chilling a jug of water in the fridge can be more appealing, or try squeezing a dash of lemon juice or adding a splash of fruit juice to water for a bit of extra flavour.
Milk is an important source of calcium, which is essential for the healthy development of bones and teeth. If your child doesn’t like milk, they will need an adequate calcium intake from other sources such as cheese, yoghurt, nuts and calcium-fortified soy products. Leave soft drinks and fruit juice for occasional drinks, in small amounts. Children should not drink energy drinks, tea or coffee, which have high levels of caffeine and can disrupt their sleep. Many energy drinks are also high in sugar.
Physical activity is very important for healthy growth, and to help prevent your child from becoming overweight. Swimming, outdoor games and walking or cycling to school are great ways to fit in regular physical activity. Some schools have a Walking School Bus programme where adults walk children to school. Remember that sitting for extended periods of time in front of the tv or computer screen is not good for your health. Encourage children to move regularly and do some exercise that causes them to huff and puff. This will improve their physical fitness.
Fussy eaters can cause a lot of distress to parents and other family members. It is good to remember children are very good at responding to their appetites and therefore may eat most of their food as snacks rather than at mealtimes.
Here are some ideas to help your fussy eater:
If you are concerned about your child’s food intake, please contact your doctor or consult a registered nutritionist or dietitian for advice and support.
Ministry of Health (2017) Eating for Healthy Children. Wellington: Ministry of Health.
Last reviewed: 21/06/2022
Last modified: June 20, 2022